Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Criminal Violence (in Cayman)

Our community disapproves of criminal violence, at least in our home territory, at least when the victims are people like us. Let the drugs gangs wipe each other out. Beg the Police to assassinate people whom they believe to be burglars and muggers. Let’s not worry when low-level migrants get cut with machetes or run down by forklifts. As long as the tourists don’t hear about those things, they don’t matter. They’re not even worth investigating properly. As long as the victims aren’t people like us, never mind.

Most communities in the world are morally ambivalent about violent conduct. When Western soldiers come back from the Middle East and carve up their families, we excuse the violence. “Well, it’s because of the terrible things they’ve seen. Watching their friends being blown up by those filthy Arabs or Afghans or whatever they are… Moslem bastards! It’s all their fault.”

Why don’t we have sympathy for the Moslem bastards? They too watch their friends and families blown up- by foreign armies from thousands of miles away. Why do most of us shrug off criminal violence visited on people who are NOT like us? Why don’t we in our Cayman community, for instance, see the hypocrisy of distinguishing between violence committed ON people like us (by our local scumbag criminals), and violence committed BY people like us (noble NATO soldiers and drones), on the innocent civilians of occupied countries?

There is a lot of common ground between gangs and armies. They share common goals – control more turf, make more money. The people who benefit, in both cases, are the planners and investors. The foot soldiers are only pawns in the game. After an American ex-Marine war-hero murdered a civil-rights activist in 1963, Bob Dylan wrote, “He’s only a pawn in their game”. You can Google those words for the whole story. Black Americans were not “people like us”, at the time.

Each side in every war- whether local or international- buys weapons, equipment and supplies from the organizers. Criminal gangs are simply guerrilla resistance forces, on a very small scale. They control their territories informally, operating mostly at night. They can’t compete with official security forces- mainly because they don’t have direct access to official tax revenues.

Supplying weapons to warring parties is so profitable as to cause intense rivalry among financiers and manufacturers. More often than you would think, they don’t really care who they sell to. Western banks financed much of the German and Allied war machines in the 1930s, and the Soviet and Western ones after the War. Today there is cooperation between some US government agencies and illegal- drugs distributors. That’s just the way things are. Western armies are reckoned to be the main players in the opium (heroin) trade in Afghanistan. The Taliban destroyed the opium crops; Britain and America now protect them. Go figure, eh?

Expanding a gang’s territory - and an army’s - is almost always at the expense of innocent civilians. Most times, they don’t actually set out to kill civilians; the intention is to frighten them into buying protection. “Buy your heroin from us, and we’ll make sure nobody bothers you.” “Betray your friends to us, and we’ll make sure your village isn’t wiped out by a drone strike from Texas.” The latter is a war crime, and not prosecuted; the former is just a plain ol’ crime, for which the perpetrators are sent to prison for a long time. And serve them right, for not being more like us.